President Muhammadu Buhari has thrown his weight behind the decision by the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el- Rufai, to sack 22,000 teachers for gross incompetence.
The teachers, who were recently subjected to competency test by the state government, failed to score average points in their assessments. El-Rufai has already announced his government’s plan to recruit 25,000 new teachers to replace the affected teachers. Against this backdrop, el-Rufa’i came under attacks from the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) over plans by the governor to sack at least 21,780 primary school teachers, who could not pass a competency test. The Kaduna State Government had, in June, conducted competency test for 33,000 primary school teachers, while 21,780 failed.
The development, which did not go down well with the leadership of the NLC and NUT, prompted a protest on November 8 over what it described as ‘obnoxious plan’ by the state government to sack the teachers.
But speaking yesterday while declaring open a special retreat for members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), on the challenges facing the education sector in Nigeria, the President expressed concerns on the decaying standard of education in the country.
The President, who said that the situation in the sector was serious, explained that his administration is taking deliberate steps to address it. While tacitly giving his nod to the actions being taken by the Kaduna State governor, President Buhari described the development as “a serious situation.” Buhari noted that the Federal Government, under his leadership will take deliberate actions to revitalizing the country’s education system and make it more responsive and globally competitive.
In specific reference to what happened in Kaduna State, Buhari said: “It is a very serious situation, when teachers cannot pass the exams that they are supposed to teach the children to pass. It is a very tragic situation we are in. “For nine years, I was in boarding school, three in primary and six in secondary school. In those days, teachers treated students or children like their own children. If you did well, they will tell you, you did well. If you didn’t do well, they never spared the rod,” he added. Buhari continued: “I listened to one Nigerian I respect.
He said after his training here in Nigeria and the United States, he went to his alma mater, his primary school to see what he could contribute. “I won’t mention his name, but when he went, he couldn’t differentiate between the students, the children and the teachers.
“And what el-Rufai is trying to do now is exactly what that man told me about 10 years ago. It is a very serious situation, when teachers cannot pass the exams that they are supposed to teach the children to pass,” he lamented. Speaking further, President told the participants that it was not possible for Nigeria to progress if the standard of education remained at the current level.
He said: “The problem is no longer a secret that the quality of education in Nigeria requires greater attention and improvement.” Buhari explained that it is those who acquire the most qualitative education, equipped with requisite skills and training, and empowered with practical knowhow, that are leading the rest. The President said that Nigeria cannot afford to continue to lag behind, adding that education is our launch-pad to a more successful, more productive and more prosperous future. But the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) has faulted the presidential endorsement for the laying off of about 22,000 teachers in Kaduna State.